Port of Dover
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Dover is best known for its stunning white cliffs (remember the World War II song "White Cliffs of Dover"?) that perch over the English Channel. It's also got a quite-spectacular castle. Once, in the mid-19th century, it was a popular seaside resort, though it was repeatedly bombed during World War II. Dover's city center hasn't yet fully regained its footing.
Dover is most commonly a port of embarkation and/or debarkation (itineraries can vary, from those that head to the Baltics and Northern Europe to those cruising south, to the Mediterranean), and most cruise passengers who want extra time in England will use London as their base instead. London is about a 1 1/2-hour train ride or two-hour drive away. Dover's proximity to some major southeast England towns and villages means there are alternatives to big city touring as well: Rye, a 1 1/4-hour drive south, is a charming medieval village and the city of Canterbury is noted for its awesome cathedral, among other sites. For day trips, Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville-West's famous gardens, are near enough to tuck into an "on the way to the port" sightseeing jaunt, as is Leeds Castle.
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Where You're Docked
The Port of Dover is a one-mile/20-minute walk (or quick cab ride) to the town center, Priory Station and Pencester Road. A shuttle bus is available to/from the town center. The Tourist Information Centre is on Old Town Gaol Street and is open Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. In July and August, it's open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.
Dover's city center is a brisk 30-minute walk from the port terminal (ten-minute ride) and it offers basic services -- drugstore, cybercafe, grocery store. But otherwise, most of the city's major attractions require auto transportation.
In Dover, cabs are relatively easy to hail. Major car rental agencies like Hertz and National have outposts here.
From London's Airports to Dover: Your best bet is to arrive at Gatwick (a 45-minute drive) or Heathrow (1 3/4-hour drive). Trains from both airports are frequent and both connect through central London. Or opt for renting a car with one-way drop-off from the aforementioned rental car agencies. Taxis are pretty expensive -- from Heathrow, you'll pay about 125 pounds (nearly $250 dollars), and that's one-way.
From London to Dover: Options for traveling to/from London include the new high-speed (1 hour 20 minutes) Javelin train, which runs throughout the day to/from St. Pancras Station (£37.50 day return; £74.60 open return) to/from Dover Priory Station via www.nationalrail.com. Frequent daily buses to/from Victoria Coach Station to/from Dover's Pencester Road ($19.50, 2 1/2 hours) via www.nationalexpress.com. For both local and expanded taxi service, try Central Executive Taxi (44 (0)1304 ($175, 2 hours). Car rental agencies are plentiful, including Avis, Hertz, Budget, National, and Europcar.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency is the sterling pound (quid in slang). Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations (for current currency exchange, go to www.oanda.com). Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices since very few businesses will accept them (ATMs and credit cards make them nearly obsolete). For the best exchange rate, use ATMs found almost everywhere.
If you are visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back some of the 17.5 percent VAT (Value Added Tax) you pay on certain goods. Not all shops participate, and stores that do, set a minimum purchase level. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill in a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at the final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents most likely will ask to see the goods
Note: Some ATMs in England require a PIN to be only four digits long, so plan ahead. Also, many display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit them to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
English is understood and spoken everywhere.
Food and Drink
Old Lantern Inn: In an old 1636 farm house, they serve up some good vegetarian options. But we say try the Stilton and chestnut pate. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $34. Noon - 2:30 p.m. daily. Martin St.
Wallett's Court: Without a doubt, the best and most impressive (and formal) eatery in the area. Try the Kentish huntsman's platter, a terrine of game partnered perfectly with apple jelly. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $40. Sunday - Friday, noon - 2 p.m. West Cliff.
The Churchill Hotel: We mention this restaurant with reservations. It's the most scenic "eatery" in Dover, located on directly on the harbor, and serves up basic pub fare (there are outdoor tables as well as indoor seating). We can't, however, wholeheartedly rave about the food or service -- after an hour of waiting for a ham and cheese sandwich we finally asked for a refund and left, lunch-less. Noon - 2 p.m. daily. Dover Harbor.
The Ellie Café: Located in the heart of Market Square, this bistro-style joint offers patio seating (with fun people-watching). Noon - 2 p.m. daily. Market Square.
Best Afternoon Tea
Lord Warden's Tea Rooms inside Walmer Castle near Dover for scones, clotted cream and wonderful pastries. April - September, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily; October until 5 p.m.
Anything from the outlet shops at Dover's De Bradelei Wharf 'cause it sells discounted merchandise -- you may get deals like 70 percent off everything from lingerie to glassware from England.
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